“¡Bolsas! ¡Bolsas auténticas de Oaxaca!” Unsteady cobblestones under my feet give way. A bus barges by, shoving me to the curb. “¡Bolsas! ¡Hechas a mano!” The aroma of corn tortillas swirls and twists with the smoke of the pollo asado in a frenzied dance of jarabe tapatío. “Eeeeeeek!” A firework screams in the distance, exploding at its final breath. A group of goth teens share a bag of popcorn by the fountain. The one with dreads powers out to the reggaeton on his stereo. A niña fitted in a red, lacey dress chases after her brother in a pursuit of tag. A sip of coffee runs down my throat warming me from the cool breeze blowing through the sunny Zócalo. “Señorita, ¿le interesa una de estas bolsas?”
Since I began in high school, my journey in language learning has been one characterized by experiences, people, and places. There is something so essential and crucial to connecting language to the five senses that I have found it almost impossible to truly acquire and – even less – appreciate a foreign language and the cultures it unites without EXPERIENCES.
My own journeys have taken me to a variety of places, both locally and abroad. I have crossed paths with people from almost every Spanish-speaking country and have heard their life stories, become part of their life stories. Yet, it never ceases to amaze me that the more I learn the less I seem to know. Learning a language is no small commitment and I am finding that as I progress I am deeper in love today with Spanish than I was when it all began.
Being bilingual has not only opened doors for new friendships, travel, and professional opportunities. For me, it has been much bigger. Adapting linguistically and culturally to a way of life different from my native one has challenged me to be brave, has revealed unknown perspectives, prejudices and talents, has developed my sense of empathy and understanding, has required that I dance on the boundaries of my limits, and has unlocked my “secret self” that I never knew existed. And that is more than this girl – introverted and a little backwards - from Lumberton, NC could have ever wished for or thought possible.
“Pies para qué los quiero si tengo alas para volar.”
– Frida Kahlo